Kathy Castle was 21 and a recent graduate in zoology from the University of Michigan when she was offered a job at the Detroit Zoo. She became the youngest member, and the only female, on a staff of 45 zookeepers. "I was really surprised," recalls Kathy, who had held various summer jobs there. "Openings at the zoo move very slowly. Usually you have to wait for someone to die or retire." Now 23, Kathy is in charge of a section of the reptile house with a population of snakes, amphibians, scorpions, black widow spiders and a stump-tail skink (above), a kind of lizard. Though her main responsibility is the care of the reptiles, she also must sweep and sometimes wax the floors of the exhibit hall early in a workday that begins at 7 a.m. Along with the other zookeepers, she shares the duty of preparing food for the reptiles—from chopping oranges and hard-boiled eggs to raising rats (the live food necessary for some snakes) and rabbits (for the large pythons). Kathy thought she might go on to become a veterinarian, but changed her mind after she realized that few vets have the variety of animals and duties she has. William Austin, curator of education at the zoo and Kathy's boss, says, "At one time women in zoo work were an oddity, but there has been a change in recent years. As for Kathy, she is one of the best."
Richard Lazar, 24, knows the sweet smell of success—literally. He is the Chocolate-Chef, owner of a small shop of that name in Great Neck, Long Island that features hand-dipped candies. He claims his confections "are the best anywhere," and his customer list is growing as word of his specialty spreads. Lazar, who majored in business administration at Syracuse University, worked for more than a year in an advertising-real estate firm owned by his mother but wasn't really interested. Instead, he turned his attention to a chocolate shop in lower Manhattan started by his grandfather more than 40 years ago and now run by an aunt. After taking lessons on the family's secret techniques of preparing the caramel, marzipan, fruit and nut fillings (he buys bittersweet, bitter, white and milk chocolate from a manufacturer and blends them in the shop), Lazar opened his store last December. His chocolate dipper, Evelyn Ganz, 75, worked for his grandfather. Lazar's father, Jack, ironically a dentist, is the shop's handyman on his day off. "Making chocolates is hard work," says young Lazar, "but every customer comes in and smiles—it's the smell. And that makes it worthwhile."